Edward Hill was born on April 13, 1835, in Liberty, NY. He died Oct. 23, 1900. While serving in the Army of the Potomac as Captain of Company K, 16th Michigan Infantry, at Cold Harbor, VA on June 1, 1864, he undertook courageous actions that resulted, on Dec. 4, 1893, in receiving the Medal of Honor. The citation read: “Led the brigade skirmish line in a desperate charge on the enemy’s masked batteries to the muzzles of the guns, where he was severely wounded.”
It wasn't the first such experience.
Hill is buried in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, Section OS, Grave 2. It is a fitting location. On Sept. 21, 1892, he spoke at the GAR National Encampment in Washington, DC on “The Last Charge at Fredericksburg.” In it he recounted the charge of the 3rd Brigade of Griffin’s Division, which took place on Dec. 13, 1862, “unsupported, in the darkness, with only the blazing light of musketry and artillery to guide it.” The Brigade had crossed the Rappahannock at 4:30 pm, taking position under fire to ready for an assault on Marye’s Hill that began at 6:20, fully 90 minutes after sunset. The 16th Michigan, with Brady’s Sharpshooters attached, was on the left of the Brigade when the assault commenced. Hill described it as, in the men’s view, “a hopeless task.”
It was. The attack failed, but the men were held in position for the next 30 hours at what seems like a stone’s throw from the stone wall until relieved during the late hours on Dec. 14. The Brigade bivouacked that night “on the cold and uneven brick sidewalks of Caroline Street.” On the night of the 15th the Brigade took position in front of the town to maintain the Federal beachhead; all other corps had been withdrawn. On the morning of the 16th, at 3:30 am, withdrawal was ordered to the opposite shore. It was finally accomplished at 8 am.
Hill records that 201 had been lost.
Years later, Hill’s military record resulted in passage of House Concurrent Resolution No. 3, approved on Feb. 6, 1895, a resolution relating the passing of John B. Bachelder and the opening his death created on the Gettysburg Battlefield Commission. It stated:
“It is the wish of many soldiers and others that the position of Commissioner and Historian be conferred upon Colonel Edward Hill, late of the 16th Michigan Volunteer Infantry; and
Whereas, said Colonel Edward Hill is a gentleman of culture and ability, a gallant soldier who participated in the battle of Gettysburg with credit and honor, and whose regiment held the position at Little Round Top, and who holds the ‘medal of honor’ for gallant services on the field of battle, and who is eminently fitted by education, experience and extended acquaintance with veterans, both North and South, to fill said position.”
Though he did not achieve this distinction, 150 years ago Hill and his comrades found themselves in a nightmarish situation that today we can only marvel at and use, we Michiganders today, as inspiration.